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Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve

Come on guys, shopping for your tees online is passe. And while there’re many indie t-shirt makers with websites touting their threads, it’s time to let your inner fashion designer out.

Pixeltees and Threadless are 2 sites that give you the option of designing your own shirts and perhaps even printing them. For those who enjoy thinking of taglines, OMG Clothing accepts slogans to be made into shirts by their stable of designers. And for more creative ideas, Preshrunk lists similar tees that are available on the Internet.


Go old school with Pixeltees , a pixel design and tees purchase site started in December 2002 by Alan Watts and Clay Ferguson. You can create the graphic for a shirt using the Tee Machine, an imaging tool similar to Microsoft’s Paint. The Macromedia Shockwave-based programme is easy to navigate if you’re familiar with simple imaging software.

Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve
Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve

With the usual tools like a pencil, shapes and eraser, messing around on the wearable canvas, will get you acquainted in no time. There’s a lot of cool stuff to give your artwork more oomph. The fill tool comes with different patterns to pretty up shapes and backgrounds. And the colour palette range is wide enough to create gradients.

For those who prefer using other illustration software, the Tee Machine allows you to copy and paste an image from another source. The image is limited to a maximum of 128 pixels by 128 pixels and the end-result will be pixilated. It is best to create pixel graphics from scratch, after all Pixeltees prides itself for being “lo-res[olution] at it’s best”, according to its website.

However, you have to get used to switching between tools, as the transition is quite slow. Also, if you make an error, there is an undo function, but it’s set to revert to only the last action. The shirts are also only saved if you have an account with Pixeltees , and the site allows you to edit the images even after saving them.

While it can be tedious to create a graphic, 1 pixel at a time, the results are cute and creative pieces similar to pixel icons. For your time and effort, people can purchase tees with your design(s) for US$15 (S$24) a pop. However, you will only start earning a mere US$1 after you’ve sold 5 shirts and after you sell at least that many, it increases to US$2. The site also boasts over 20,000 designs making it hard for users to browse and find that perfect shirt.

Overall, Pixeltees will appeal to fans of pixel art and the concept of designing your own shirts via old fashion graphics is something unique. Considering that all designs have the option of being printed, you can leave the hassle of printing to them.


Started in January 2000 by 2 designers from Chicago, Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHartThreadless hosts “an ongoing tee shirt design competition”. Every week, the site gets over 300 entries where members vote for their favourites to be printed. Since the launch, over 200 shirts have been printed from 30,000 submissions. And as said in the press kit, the site has been gaining popularity over the years, with over 100,000 users and another 1,500 new sign-ups every week.

Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve
Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve

Threadless provides a shirt template for users to follow when designing, and this is evidently for those who are familiar with vector illustration programmes like Macromedia Freehand and Adobe Illustrator. The site clearly indicates formats and resolutions to save final submissions. To keep costs down, designs are limited to 4 unique colours. While it may seem like the guys at Threadless are being strict, they are simply keeping up the quality by demanding high resolution designs.

For 7 days after the submission, other members can score designs by rating them on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being bad. To ensure demand for the shirts, an additional “I’d buy it” box can be checked for the Threadless team to assess popularity. The top scoring design may not necessarily win, as the team looks closely at the top few designs and chooses a few based on instinct.

The winning design earns the artist a cash prize along with gift certificates amounting to US$500. Along with that, hundreds of people all over the world will purchase the tees. The shirts cost US$15 for a guy’s cut and US$17 for girls. The prints are limited and a nifty stock chart keeps track of how many are still available for orders. Each tee comes printed with the designer’s name and the Threadless brand.

For budding artists who want to see their work covering the torsos of many, Threadless allows you to see how users respond to your design. A comments function lets users give their input for improvements. The site’s icons and layout are inviting. The interactivity encourages participation from both designers and viewers.

OMG Clothing

Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve
Wear Your Art On Your Sleeve

The younger sister of Threadless , brought to you by the same creative crew, OMG Clothing has the same concept, but you don’t even need to know how to design, as long as you can string words together beautifully. The more popular slogans will be given to hired designers to be made into tees.

Birthed in January, the site follows the traits of Threadless , including the prices of the shirts and limited prints. The prizes for creating winning slogans are US$100 cash and the same amount in gift certificates. Instead of a scale of 0 to 5, users just have to decide if they’ll “wear this” or if the slogan is “OMG stupid”. (OMG is an acronym for Oh My God).

For the more lyrically blessed, OMG Clothing is the place to be. And it’s interesting too to see the end product, a design generated from mere words.


A weblog dedicated to t-shirts and hoodies, Preshrunk , has a collection of different links and updates to indie shirt designs. Started in the last few days of 2004, Jason Cosper brings you news of the latest tee designs scoured from various websites as well as alerts of shirt sales. The idea spawned from another site, Cool Hunting, a collection of different unique products ranging from artwork to gadgets.

Each entry includes the URL to purchase the shirt as well as the cost and the method of payment. Jason’s entries are not just introductions of shirts. His quips share a part of his life as he links you to a shirt. And he is open to comments and help, so drop him a note if you want a shirt featured or have come across a similar design.

Preshrunk is a 1-stop guide for busy netizens who want a piece of the indie shirt action, without the hassle of browsing. The occasional slashed prices news he brings is also a plus.



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